Every summer there's a melodrama in Cripple Creek. The live theater exaggerates the wild history of the world's greatest gold camp - but not by much, if you read historical accounts. Entertaining as the melodrama might be, the main reason visitors come here today is to seek riches of a different kind - at the slot machines and blackjack tables. Cripple Creek is one of several Colorado towns allowed to indulge in limited-stakes gambling.
But just because you don't have any quarters in your pocket is no reason to bypass this mountain community. There are other attractions, most of which play into the town's colorful past.
The Cripple Creek Museum is packed with artifacts from the town's heyday. The Homestead House recalls the days of posh brothels and ladies-of-the-evening.
On the edge of town is the Mollie Kathleen Mine, where visitors can descend into the earth and get a taste of what it was like to be a miner.
Take an excursion on the Cripple Creek & Victor Railroad to get an idea of what early rail travel was like (uncomfortable, but probably very exciting).
And, of course, visit the Butte Opera House to get a melodramatic interpretation of what made this town famous enough to inspire songs and dime novels in its day.
When the search for gold reached its zenith, Victor was one Colorado town that was growing faster than the gold-seekers could slap up tents. Today, it's a Victorian relic, caught in the web of time, changing little and liking it that way. Its 1890s architecture remains undisturbed by 21st century buildings.
Victor is high - nearly 10,000 feet above sea level - and it boasts the highest bridge in the state, the 250-foot bridge over Arequa Gulch. Remnants of old gold mines remind visitors of the town's history. Check out the Lowell Thomas Museum, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The museum is named after famed radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas, who was born here.
There aren't many stores in Victor, but you can buy a handmade broom, a souvenir or an old-fashioned ice cream soda, if you like. The Victor Hotel, which has undergone a major upgrade recently, provides a much quieter stay than the hotels in the casino-rich Cripple Creek, which is bustling till all hours.
Victor also is a jumping-off point for a couple of scenic drives, including the sometimes precarious Shelf and Phantom Canyon roads, the Gold Belt Scenic Byway and the historic Gold Camp Road to Colorado Springs. You can also enjoy hiking and biking the four Historic Mining Trails, which weave past various old mining structures, part of a collection of mining relics that make up the Golden Loop.